A common criticism of new housing developments is that they are there just to make money for developers by aiming at those with high incomes, while failing to meet the pressing needs of sections of the community struggling to find suitable accommodation.
This kind of complaint can concern affordable housing, family homes, rental properties and much else, but in an ageing society, the provision of more accommodation for older people with reduced mobility is a particularly pressing need that many would argue is not being met.
However, there is encouraging news on this issue in Norfolk. A planned new 101-home development in the village of Stalham will not only include 40 affordable homes, but a ‘care village’ of 61 homes for older people, the Eastern Daily Press reports.
The developers have submitted plans to North Norfolk District Council for the development, which would take place on vacant land on the eastern edge of the village. The scheme would come with a specific focus on mobility, as it would include a mobility scooter parking facility at the site.
It would promote independent living for residents, while also having a communal dining area and care assistants on site.
Council planners will consider the scheme this month, with some objections based on the previous designation of the site for industrial use and the potential impact on local employment opportunities. This means it is far from a done deal yet.
Arguing for the developments, council planners said there is a “clear and demonstrable need” for more homes for older people with mobility issues. However, local councillor Nigel Dixon said that while such accommodation is needed in the area, “there’s little evidence to show that the adverse implications of losing this site from employment to residential use have been fully explored”.
If it does go ahead, local people with mobility needs in later life will benefit from facilities such as bath lifts for the elderly.
While getting planning permission, especially in rural areas with fewer brownfield sites than cities, can often be tricky, at least in this case the proposals have targeted priority areas of need.
Elsewhere, however, the best solution for many will be to have their homes retrofitted with adjustments to their bathrooms to provide easier access to bath, shower and toilet facilities.
There are, of course, some steps being taken across the country to help older people stay mobile as long as possible and less in need of devices to make accessing their bathroom facilities possible.
An example of this, reported this month in the Shropshire Star, is that of a scheme run by active partnership Energize, with funding support from Shropshire County Council.
These classes, which are taking place in locations across the county, are aimed at anyone over the age of 60 and aim to help improve strength and balance.
While that may help some live for longer without adapted or custom-designed mobility services, it will not completely obviate the need for them, especially among the very old or those with disabilities.
For that reason, while some in Norfolk will be keeping their fingers crossed about the plans in Stalham, others will benefit from some significant adjustments to their existing bathrooms.